Friday, May 11, 2007

The Beauty of Relics.

High Noon in the Desert, Photo by blogger Jamm
Click to enlarge

This photo essay of photographer, Marshall Sokoloff, in The Morning News, brought back the striking nature of the desert for me. I lived in the desert for over two years in a small town in California named Desert Hot Springs, about 20 miles and a lifetime away from Palm Springs. Sokoloff's photographs entitled Dreamland precede a wonderful interview which is below the photos when you scroll down the page. The photos and the interview bring back the grit and feel of the desert.

The abandoned nature of the desert repelled me when I first arrived to live there. It was high noon and everything was flat and ugly. Heat rippled the roads and horizon. I awoke early the next morning, though, and walked out into the desert that surrounded the place I was to live. What had been flat and unattractive at noon the day before, was now alive and dazzling in the morning light.

The longer I lived in the desert the more moved I was by beauty and feel of it. The sparse, dry environment was stripped of all but the essentials. There was little visual distraction. You could really see things. Because of that, everything was heightened and quietly dramatic. It is no wonder that so many mystics emerged from long periods in the desert, renewed and clear. I understand that now. The desert represents not so much abandonment, as it does the the folly of human effort and striving.

Sokoloff's photos are of a particular place, the Salton Sea. I never got that far south. But, I have to say, the desert is the desert. Go anywhere in it and you will find these gems like Sokoloff found, collapsing, turning to dust, blowing away. This disintegration of life happens more rapidly in the desert because of the heat and wind. The desert quickly teaches the truth, as you are watching.

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